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  VENTURE APRIL 2002 21 Innovation:  A REASON I’M often given for the need for innovationtraining is “to get our company to think outside the box”.This may come from the person at the top who feelsthat the quality ofsolutions or ideas is not great.Thisstems from a sense offrustration.It also comes frompeople working in teams who feel that the contribution of others is not helping to find new and srcinal solutions tothe challenges they face.Ifyou have ever been in this situation,you will know how hard it is to deal with.Perhaps it is best to start withwhat this term actually means.I don’t know ofan officialdefinition of“out ofthe box”thinking but here is my perspective starting with “in the box”thinking.  THINKING INSIDE THE BOX Thinking inside the box accepts the status quo.Forexample,Charles H.Duell,director ofthe US PatentOffice said,“Everything that can be invented has beeninvented”.That was in 1899;clearly,he was in the box! In-the-box thinkers find it hard to recognise thequality ofan idea.An idea is an idea.A solution is asolution.In fact,they can be quite pig-headed when itcomes to valuing an idea.They rarely invest time to turn amediocre solution into a great solution.More dangerously,in-the-box thinkers are skilful inkilling ideas.They are masters ofthe creativity killerattitude such as “that’ll never work”or “it’s too risky”.Thebest in-the-box thinkers are naïve to the fact that they drain the enthusiasm and passion ofinnovative thinkerswhen they kill their innovative ideas.They also believe that every problem needs only onesolution.Therefore,finding more than one possiblesolution is a waste.They often say,“There is no time forcreative solutions.We just need the solution.”There is a tragedy here.Great creative people canbecome in-the-box thinkers when they stop trying.Apathy and indifference can turn an innovator into an in-the-box thinker.There is only one case where in-the-box thinking iskey.This comes from a cartoon:a man talks to his cat andpoints to the kitty litter box.He says,“Never ever think outside the box!”  THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX Thinking outside the box takes different attributes that include:ãwillingness to take new perspectives to day-to-day work ãopenness to do different things and to do thingsdifferently ãfocusing on the value offinding new ideas and acting onthemãstriving to create value in new ways ãlistening to others ãsupporting and respecting others when they come upwith new ideas.Out-of-the box thinking requires being open to new waysofseeing the world and a willingness to explore.Out-of-the box thinkers know that new ideas need nurturing andsupport.They also know that having an idea is good butacting on it is more important.Results are what count. Ed Bernacki is an ideas champion.He started The Idea Factory to work with people to find and action new ideas.His latest book,“Wow! That’s a Great idea!” is available at book shops or by downloading an order format  by Ed Bernacki Thinking outside the box      S   c   o    t    t    K   e   n   n   e    d   y  Innovation: Ed Bernacki is a writer and international speaker on innovation 18VENTURE  MARCH 2001 FOR READERS WHO  have used typewriters, you know the IBM Selecta wasa model of innovation. You could use correctable tape. You could changethe font. What power the machine gave you.Part of my first job was to produce newsletters. I typed a draftversion. It was corrected. I then retyped a final version. A typesetter thenretyped the article for layout. This was my story until 1984 – when webought computers.The PC meant I had to unlearn how I created stories on atypewriter and relearn how to do it on a computer.This involved two aspects:ãlearning how to use thetechnologyãlearning to see what waspossible with the technology.In the end, I realised thesecond type of learning wasmore challenging and powerful.The computer was much morethan a typewriter on steroids!The need to unlearn whatwe hold as “fact” and relearnhow we do things is the essenceof business innovation. Whatare you resisting to unlearnand relearn?I hear two stories toexcuse why people claimthat innovation is notimportant. I want to address them.“ Being innovative is too risky  ”To deal with this issue, I will use a technique for prompting new thinking- do the reverse.For example, to plan an event, you develop a “to do” list to besuccessful. To enhance your thinking, also produce a “to fail” list. If youidentify the top issues that could cause you to fail, and you avoid them,you succeed. This is a powerful tool.Let’s look at the notion of risk. In its most basic terms, if the riskof trying something new is too high, what is the risk of not tryingsomething new?From the research on decision making in organisations, there arecommon results regardless of the country or the industry.People in organisations are:ãslower to react to opportunities than the alarm bells of problemsãoften pick the first alternative that minimally meets the standardsof acceptability.Let’s ask the question again. If being innovative is too risky, what is therisk of picking the first minimally acceptable solution that is a reactionto a problem?As a decision-maker, which is a bigger risk to long-termprofitability: one inwhich you or your staff look for new options orone in which you acceptthe first minimallyacceptable option? “There’s no need for innovation in our industry”  People continue to thinklike this until acompetitor doessomething no one elsethought of. They breakthe industry rules anddo something new. Everybusiness presentscustomers with productsor services that representthe best solution of theday. If something bettercomes along, customers tend to move to the new product.If your business does not need innovation, what does this sayabout the solutions you offer customers? What’s the opposite of aninnovative solution? You may not like the answer. The opposite of aninnovative solution is what I call “acceptable mediocrity”. It may notbe bad, but how good is it?The biggest risk to a company, industry orcountry that thinks innovation is not important is becoming complacent.Every organisation can profit from being more innovative in itsproducts or services, marketing, or leadership. So take away theperception of risk and replace it with the perception that new ideas areimportant. On the other hand, you can continue to use the IBM Selectra.It was a good idea in its day.  The risk of not trying something new BY ED BERNACKI  NOT LONG AGO ,I read that brainstorming is agood team building activity.In a businessworld that is shifting toward a greater focuson teamwork,this sounds great.But there is aproblem:brainstorming is not a teambuilding activity.Alex Osborn,who first defined thisapproach for “harnessing people’s brains tostorm through problems”,made his intentclear.He wrote,“Despite the advances inorganised research,the creative power oftheindividual still counts most”.He viewedteamwork as a way to enhance the creativity ofindividuals.To prove his point,hisinsightful 1953 book, Applied Imagination  *spent 287 pages talking about processes tofind powerful ideas as individuals and only 18pages on doing this in groups.Having worked with numerousorganisations,I always find some people seemto find powerful ideas.These are people wholike to think about the way things work andhow they could work.Without consideringthemselves as innovative,they solve problemsand find new ways to make things happen.They love the challenge to think,solveproblems,create opportunities and take onchallenges.These people are worth gold.They can be assistantsto managers,PAs or seniormanagers.What many lack is the opportunity to have their ideas heard and understood.As a result,many great ideas are lost.You need to recognise that the strengthofthese people is the power oftheir initiative.They should be nurtured and protected.Your job is to provide a forum for their ideas.Alex Osborn defined brainstorming to improve the quality ofdecisions beingmade by groups working on a commonchallenge.We all recognise the scenario hesaw – a group has a major challenge to tackleand calls together a meeting.Instead of “harnessing the brains to storm through theproblem”they end with discussions that go in circles.Solutions are not found.Decisionsare postponed.To change this,focus on two perspectives: 1. PLANNING FOR RESULTS Prior to the event,define the challenge athand in writing.The discipline ofwriting itdown clarifies your thinking.Give thischallenge to each participant prior to themeeting.Tell each to prepare a two-minuteresponse from his or her perspective (toensure everyone prepares). 2. AVOID “DUMBING” DOWN A TEAM Keep in mind that sport teams combineindividual expertise to form a single powerful unit.Likewise,your brainstormingteam should combine individual experts.Some people are experts at finding ideas,while others are uncomfortable with untried ideas.Their skill will likely be on enhancingthe srcinal idea or helping to shape an action plan.All three skills offinding ideas,nurturing them and acting on them are necessary.Your job is to find all three types andallow each a voice to use their expertise.Not everyone will have an equal voice – that’s OK.Remember that brainstorming isdesigned to find better ideas to solve yourproblems and achieve results.Often when this happens,your team builds in strength.But that’s the by-product,not the goal! * Applied Imagination  is available VENTURE  JUNE 2002 21 Teamwork:  ALLOWING YOUR STARS TO SHINE by Ed Bernacki     S   c   o    t    t    K   e   n   n   e    d   y Contact: Ed Bernacki of The Idea Factory is a writer and speaker on innovation. See  WHAT MAKES ORGANISATIONS successful andprofitable in the long run?This is the mostlooked at question in all ofmanagementliterature.Millions ofdollars have been spent toresearch this question.Is the answer the Holy Grail ofbusiness or is it possible to solvethis enigma? There seems to be two differentapproaches to answer this question.Onereflects the traditional management approachoflooking for the secrets by studying what successful companies do and don’t do.We are told,“Follow the key successfulfactors for other organisations and you toowill succeed”.Perhaps the first super book in this category was Tom Peter’s In Search ofExcellence. The other approach starts at a morephilosophical basis.This was outlined verywell recently in a speech I read by the head of Singapore’s civil service,Lim Siong Guan,atthe launch ofa new innovation programme.He outlined three main reasons for the failureofinstitutions and even societies:ã failure to learn from the pastã failure to adapt to the present ã failure to anticipate the future.He says the worst failure is the failure toanticipate the future.Ifwe need a road mapto find the direction we should head,everyretreat and planning session should start withthese three simple questions. How can we learn from the past?  How does your organisation learn from itsmistakes,and even better,the mistakes of others?What is put in place to ensure that thelessons learned in investing time and moneyinto projects,strategies and ideas that did notwork are not lost?There is value in theinsights gained from errors.How do you learnfrom customer mistakes and success?Thesimple solution is to ensure that we stop,reflect,and look at what worked and what didn’t. How should we adapt to the present?  How does your organisation tackle today’schallenges?Does the organisation create thetime to take the lessons from the past torecognise today’s challenges.Ifso,does itactively and deliberately tackle them?I believea significant issue for many companies is thatthey do not adapt well to present conditionsbecause they lack the discipline and insightsto recognise the necessary changes. How do we anticipate the future?  Those organisations and individuals that leadthe way have a strong sense ofthe future.While no one is a fortune-teller,some peopleseem to be in front ofthe market.Manycompanies are investing the time andresources to look for new directions,ideasand innovations.It takes new skills to review our successesand failures,to adapt to today’s challenges,and to look to the horizon to see what’spossible.This is the essence ofan innovativeorganisation.It anticipates and responds tochange rather than waiting to react whenchange has already happened.One ofthe strongest solutions I haveseen comes from the Singapore Civil Service.Its goal is to help people become innovativethinkers.To support people,it developed amajor training programme made up offiveimportant aspects ofinnovative thinking.These are:ã generating ideasã harvesting and developing ideasã evaluating and judging ideasã marketing and communicating new ideasã implementing ideas.Take the time to reflect on the threechallenges set out earlier.Prior to your nextplanning session,give your team a one-pageoverview ofthem and tell people to comeprepared to discuss the big issues for theirarea ofresponsibility.You may discover thatyou have a wealth ofinsights already.Alternatively,you may discover how littleknowledge your organisation actually hasabout the future.Both results are valuable butyour actions will be different. Ed Bernacki is an ideas champion.He started The Idea Factory to work with people to find and action new ideas.His latest book,“Wow! That’s a Great Idea!”is available at book shops or by downloading an order form at  VENTURE DECEMBER 2001 – FEBRUARY 2002 17 by Ed Bernacki  Management: Understanding failure and success     S   c   o    t    t    K   e   n   n   e    d   y
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